WASHINGTON — The shots came one after another. If there is an alarm bell in Alex Ovechkin’s head, it went off on Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames.
“He knows what time it is,” teammate T.J. Oshie said.
The Stanley Cup playoffs are approaching and Ovechkin is rounding into dominant form again. He had a goal and an assist in a 4-2 win at Verizon Center and pumped 11 shots on Flames goalie Brian Elliott. It could have been much, much worse for Calgary.
Ovechkin fell a handful of shots shy of his career-best 15 shots reached most recently Nov. 10, 2015 against Detroit. It was the first time Ovechkin had taken double-digit shots since he did so three times in a four-game stretch last February. He also drew a penalty and would have had another assist save for a scoring change Wednesday morning. But he was on the ice for Washington’s third goal of the game.
“He’s got a ridiculous shot,” longtime linemate Nicklas Backstrom said. “If he’s got 11 shots every game, at least one is going to go in. That’s just who he is.”
Added Oshie: “[Ovechkin] touches the puck quite a bit and when he’s going like that you can see it … It’s fun to watch and sometimes when he gets the puck you sit back. You don’t really want to miss anything.”
Ovechkin now has six points in his last five games. It took all 11 shots before he finally fired one past Elliott to push the Caps’ advantage to 4-2 with 2 minutes, 51 seconds remaining. Before that he was content to assist on Oshie’s team-high 30th goal of the season. No Caps player has led the team in goals other than Ovechkin since he arrived in the NHL in 2005.
Oshie has that lead — for now. But Ovechkin kept pace with his 29th.
“The funny thing is Alex has made some unbelievable passes lately,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s known as a great shooter, and he always will be, but some of his passes have been outstanding. I like the fact that him and [Oshie] and [Backstrom], they’re very unselfish. They’re trying to do what’s best for the team, and if a guy’s open, they’ll get it over to him. I like that fact.”
Ovechkin now has 32 assists, which is his most since 2010-11 (53). Backstrom, meanwhile, had a goal and two assists on Tuesday and is now one shy of the NHL lead with 56 assists. He has an outside shot at setting a career high in that category. He had 68 in 2009-10.
Oshie reached a milestone of his own. One of the NHL’s most skilled players had never before scored 30 goals in a season. Teammates almost to a man expressed surprise it hadn’t happened for him yet. But at age 30, in a contract year, in his ninth NHL season, Oshie is there with 10 games still to go. He’s also missed 14 games due to injury.
“It’s something that I always thought I could do,” Oshie said. “My first goal was 20 [goals] and I was flirting with it for a while there when I was a little bit younger. It’s pretty special for me to get to . I feel like I’ve worked pretty hard for it. But at the same time I’ve got some pretty good players around me and without them I don’t think I get there.”
Oshie finally topped that 20-goal barrier in 2013-14 (21) after twice coming close early in his career. But leading the Caps in goals for a whole season? That’s still Ovechkin’s domain. Oshie isn’t ready to claim that crown yet.
“He got one tonight. Don’t get too used to this,” Oshie joked. “This guy can score a lot of goals. Not really my focus to lead the team in goals. My goal is to play good hockey and get wins. I wouldn’t doubt ‘O’ scoring every game for the rest of the season.”
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